Christian Long

James Kunstler: Negative Aspects and Effects of Suburbia

In TED Talks on April 15, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

James Kunstler: Negative Aspects and Effects of Suburbia

Note to the viewer:

Before watching this video, I would like to inform you that Mr. Kunstler can get real intense, critical, and emotional when talking about suburbia. He may be quite formulated in his opinions and striking when he appeals them, but he expresses his opinions in harsh, sometimes vulgar, ways. Bearing this in thought, keep an open mind when you are watching this video.


Kunstler believes that we as Americans should be somewhat ashamed of what we call suburbia or the center of our civic life.

These street corners of know creative design and apathy, should be looked upon as unimaginative and boring. Having a civic center that is poor degrades the people that live in the same area or near there.

How can America continue to live like this if it wants to display how powerful and strong it is? If we continue down this path, American architecture will be nothing, if not a ‘joke.’ The designs that are being drawn today for suburbia are nothing but simple rectangular prisms that exemplify nothing but apathy; the buildings are simply there. People glance at these buildings and then simple look away because they are nothing special, they are just ordinary. There is a need to be remarkable in the designs of civic centers. The center of civic life needs to display the large range of difference that the people of America do. If we can create beautiful, grand city centers, then more people will visit and get out of their daily habits of normalcy.

American suburban area used to be places of sanctuary and places of calm compared to the bustle of the city. Houses were gorgeous and elegantly designed, but now lack a sense of beauty unless owned by a celebrity or someone with large allotments of money. City centers have become a habit of common ignorance and apathy. The right amount of care is not given to suburbia like it should be. If we neglect suburbia, then we neglect our nation, and thus fall into a state of degradation. If we embellish and take more time in the design of suburban areas, then we embellish our state of living and out lives.

What should suburbia offer us? Suburbia should be a place that people actually want to go to, not just go there out of a necessity to get or buy something. Suburbia should be city centers, full of live and happy citizens. There should be correct usage of space and not great fields of parking lots dotted with large rectangular stores. Urban city centers should offer relief from jobs and the stress of the day, not inspire the same stress. This all begins with designing a plan for suburbia that is efficient, functional, and appealing.

This video has really opened my eyes to the ugliness of most suburban areas.

I have never really realized the truth of Kunstler’s comments about the lack of creativity and imagination put into suburbia. These comments have left a lasting impression on me and my concept of design. Even though I have only been in high school for a little under two years, I believe that I want to become an architect and study architecture in college. Bearing Kunstler’s theories and opinions in mind, I will not become an architect that thinks on boring and apathetic terms. I will strive to try to bring creativity and function to my designs, and hope to influence other architects.


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